Heliocentric (Night)

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8.58/10 rating
(165 votes)

This is my third version of "Heliocentric (Night)". I also gave in to temptation with the second version and added a huge planet in the sky. Some folks liked, it but I can see where maybe less might work better in this case. For the third version I've gone with a quarter moon to light the scene.

The first version took nearly 80 hours to render on Bucephalus at 3277 x 2048. The second took only 15. The third took 17 ;)

I was informed by my son Ian yesterday the two characters by the fire are indeed myself and him. I guess it is official then...

Pickle Jar Variations what's this?

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""I guess it is official then...""
...so which one of you is the assassin? :)

Wed October 12, 2011 at 1:48 pm

"Game of Thrones @ night"
I like this one too...and I still think this reminds me more of the tv series Game of Thrones than LOTR....not sure why though..

Tue September 27, 2011 at 8:24 pm

What sort of phone do you have? If it is a "smartphone" you should be able to download it directly from my site.

Thu August 11, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Where on this site can I send a wallpaper of this to my phone? My first time trying this. Thanks

Thu August 11, 2011 at 7:23 pm

"resolution request"
A request for 960 x 540 display resolution please, for the Atrix 4G's mobile display :)

Fri August 5, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Perfect! I can add this to my auto changing wallpapers that go from day to night of the same picture! Thanks as ALWAYS!

(PS Thanks for getting the 5760x1200 out so quick!)

Fri August 5, 2011 at 5:25 pm

"Even better! "
I love this version more than the previous one, especially because with the alien planet gone, I can better focus on the beauty of the fire scene. The moonlight is lovely!

Fri August 5, 2011 at 12:33 am

"Multiscreen lossless?"
Hi Ryan, can we get multiscreen lossless? I see that there is a 2560x1600 lossless, well I have two of those and need a 5120x1600 lossless :)

Fri August 5, 2011 at 1:18 am

"Love it flat"
I'm sorry but I can't deal with the sloped version. I have the normal aspect version of the night one and really like it. I hope that tilted aspects do not become common please?

Thu August 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm

"Missing Moon in the 16x9"
The only thing that I could wish for in the multi-monitor version is to be able to see the moon. In the 16x9 version, it gets cropped out of the image.

Thu August 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm

"Multi-screen Yay!"
Thank you, Ryan!!

Thu August 4, 2011 at 10:44 am

"Multiscreen Versions"
I've added the dual and triple-screen versions (of v.3) this morning. I hope you guys enjoy it!

Thu August 4, 2011 at 9:41 am

Dual screen please! :D

Wed August 3, 2011 at 12:07 am

"Possibly your best work to date"
This scene is incredible. It definitely works much better in the dark. There are so many things that pull this piece together into a mesmerizing scene.

Wed August 3, 2011 at 12:06 am

"Less is more"
I like this 3:rd version of Heliocentric a lot more than the previous. Its more clean and its also clear that less can be more. :)

Wed August 3, 2011 at 10:34 am

It's not a precedent...he's been doing it this way (altering based on feedback) for more than ten years now...are you new? :) (Just poking fun! :) )

Wed August 3, 2011 at 5:51 am

"Well, I really like this one ..."
... but you can't make four versions of every screen you have. This is a dangerous precedent, people might start thinking they have a say in what you make, and you might be forced to remake the same shot again and again ... forever! *dramatic thunder* D:

Tue August 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm

Wow. That's exactly what I was looking for in this picture. Awesome job, Ryan! The highest clouds still look a bit blobby/undefined, but since my eyes aren't really drawn to them much because of the rest of the scene, I don't notice it too much. Excellent work!

Tue August 2, 2011 at 5:01 pm

"fluff writer"
I have to ask, what enemy is coming that they'd light those watchfires?

Tue August 2, 2011 at 12:59 am

"still like the first version best"
i think i still like the first version best. huzzah for the pickle jar!

Tue August 2, 2011 at 11:33 am

"All amazing"
All your versions of this render are awesome, and so beautiful can't wait to see what else you have in store for us.

Tue August 2, 2011 at 11:28 am

I am preparing them right now actually ;)

Tue August 2, 2011 at 11:20 am

"What Kris said..."
I like this last version the best. When can we have some multi-screen formats for us dual/triple monitor users?

Tue August 2, 2011 at 11:18 am

"Third time's a charm..."
Definitely the most realistic and "finished" looking version. Thanks for including us in your creative process Ryan! Most artists could care less but you are willing to be flexible, and that's what makes you current and excellent.

Tue August 2, 2011 at 10:36 am

"Re: Angelique"
Because that's what silhouettes do in the real sky. Backlit objects don't show much detail. I'd say it looks pretty realistic.

Tue August 2, 2011 at 9:25 am

"Heliocentric (Night) (2011)"
I like this version best of the three but I wonder why the clouds along the bottom of the scene look very realistic while those in the sky near the moon look like silhouette cut-outs. Maybe it's the way they're lit? They just look kinda fake and thus spoil the rest of the otherwise very realistic scene. It's a bit distracting. The one below the moon resembles a blimp. I'm not trying to be rude. I just wonder why they rendered differently even though they're in the same scene with the same lighting...

Otherwise it's a cool scene and makes me think of Harry Potter-type fantasy stories. I like the figures with their billowing robes :)

Tue August 2, 2011 at 9:22 am

"V.3 for the win."
That is all.

Tue August 2, 2011 at 8:27 am

"And the Winner Is ..."
Version 3

The KISS principle comes through again. By far the best render. Thanks Ryan.

Tue August 2, 2011 at 8:23 am

"Thank you!"
v3 is just what I was looking for! thank you Ryan!!

Tue August 2, 2011 at 7:25 am

"RE: v.3"
That was exactly what I was thinking! Totally going to make a day night transition set up between the 2 for my desktop.

You sir, are a genius. =)

Tue August 2, 2011 at 2:15 am

The fire looks much better as well at the mid-ground clouds. The foreground clouds still look like liquid blobs. Overall, this wallpaper has improved significantly. I really the the crepuscular moon rays.

Mon August 1, 2011 at 11:58 pm

I've added yet a third version of "Heliocentric (Night)" to the gallery this evening. In this version the scene is lit by a silvery Moon. The stars are a bit brighter in this version and I have brought back the firelight in the lower right corner. The other versions will remain in the Pickle Jar.

I liked the "alien" version but I don't think the planet really fit with the day scene. It was fun to try though and I hope those of you who enjoy it will continue to use the version you prefer!

Mon August 1, 2011 at 11:10 pm

"I love planets"
The night scene gets my top vote and I LOVE the planet (moon). Please don't hesitate to add a planet now and then.

Mon August 1, 2011 at 6:47 pm

"new versions"
I like the sky in the second version better except for the planet. I'm glad to read that a third version is on the way without it. But will the bottom part look more like the first version? The bottom (non-sky) part was much better in the first version; the mist looked much better, and I liked the fire hidden behind trees in the bottom right corner. Will that be brought back?

Mon August 1, 2011 at 5:54 pm

"Multi Screen?"
Looking for a multi-screen version at 3840x1080. Got any plans to render one of these?

Mon August 1, 2011 at 5:39 pm

"very cool"
the planet was an excellent touch. i cant wait to see the multi-screen versions

Mon August 1, 2011 at 5:25 pm

"LOL @ Return of the King refrence"
Im my opinion, everytime I see this or the day version, I'm reminded more of "Game of Thrones" for some reason.

Great re-rendering BTW....Good job Ryan.

Mon August 1, 2011 at 2:27 pm

"2nd night version"
I love the planet -- this is my favorite night version by far. My only quibble is the clouds in front of the planet. They look a bit strange. Better, I think, if they were removed, since I don't see a way to brighten them without brightening the other clouds somehow, too.

Mon August 1, 2011 at 1:55 pm

"2nd night version"
Wow, I really like the clouds in the newest version! Much better than before. But still I think, the highest clouds (the ones directly in front of the planet) look like flying stones, as they don't have smooth and fluffy edges. Why did you make them so different than the rest?

Mon August 1, 2011 at 11:01 am

"Many versions are good"
Nice to be able to render them so fast!

I am not a fan of the big planet. But I still have the other versions. :D

Mon August 1, 2011 at 10:54 am

Mark Fine
Heliocentric(Night) is fantastic and I installed it immediately. One this I noticed though was the flame of the fire.I think the even though the flame is on a sloped outcropping it should still be burning in a vertical line. Just saying.

Mon August 1, 2011 at 9:40 am

"Love it!"
My favorite of the night versions thus far! I personally love the planet. Thanks for sharing so many different visions with us! :D

Mon August 1, 2011 at 9:36 am

"Re: Ryan"
"I really appreciate your feedback as I try out different ideas!"

And that is why we keep coming back. =)

Mon August 1, 2011 at 9:24 am

Jonathan L
"I don't normally like people in images..."
But this image is so good... so, so good. And they fit! lol

I love it. :)

Mon August 1, 2011 at 9:01 am

"Re: The Planet"
Thanks for the feedback everyone. I started a third version rendering last night, this one lit only by a Moon (ours) and more stars. It looks more "natural". Given the tilt of the scene it wasn't easy squeezing a huge planet into the sky, but I gave it the old college try.

I usually render at least 2 or 3 versions of all my work before I am satisfied enough to post something (and then sometimes 1 or 2 after that). My first night render took so long I decided to post it even though I knew it had issues. I really appreciate your feedback as I try out different ideas!

Mon August 1, 2011 at 8:25 am

"About the planet's visibility"
Really, guys, not all moons are tidally locked to their planets -- granted, one this close in seems pretty likely to be, but depending on the orbit, it's not necessarily so. I don't think the planet necessarily should be in the same place in the sky.

Then again, if Ryan were to make a new daylight version with the planet visible... I sure wouldn't complain!

Mon August 1, 2011 at 6:03 am

"You've removed the best part!"
I really liked the fire in the forest on the right hand side, much prefer the versions with this in. I like the planet and/or the nebula, but I'm still not sold on those dense blob clouds...

Mon August 1, 2011 at 4:21 am

"Nebula instead?"
I like this one better except, again, for the planet. Bring back the nebula instead?

Mon August 1, 2011 at 2:44 am

I seem to have left off part of a sentence:

"I don't like that the planet you see here is invisible in the day version."

Mon August 1, 2011 at 2:25 am

I don't like that the planet is invisible in the day version. If the planet were smaller, or in a part of the sky that was obscured by clouds in the day version, it'd be a totally different story!

Mon August 1, 2011 at 2:25 am

"Not sure"
While I enjoy the scenes with planets, the placement of this one doesn't seem to fit well for me. I think it's because you can see a large portion of that sky in the day scene and there is not even a hint of a planet. So the continuity between the 2 seems broken.

I sort of envision a dark night sky with a moon lit ground. Much like a clear night in the mid-west (where there is little light pollution) where you have a clean light from a full moon and the stars are very stark and clear against the darkness of space. Much like the sky in the upper left corner during the day render.

I think it would add to the drama of the fires and characters.

Just my thoughts on it anyway.

Mon August 1, 2011 at 2:08 am

Going to have to agree on removing the planet, it seems thrown in 'just because'

Mon August 1, 2011 at 1:23 am

The Guru
"Against the flow..."
I'm going to have to go against popular opinion and say that I LOVE this version. I like the planet in the sky much better than the stars. The old stars almost seemed like a cut and pasted JPG from a NASA website but this makes it seem more magical and more real at the same time. Good work!

Mon August 1, 2011 at 0:32 am

I love your work, except for the planets in the sky.

Please change it back. It pollutes a good picture.

Sun July 31, 2011 at 11:49 pm

i feel like the planet is really out of place on this one. your intense star cluster/galaxy in the night sky really made it more mystical and intriguing.

i hope you change it back

Sun July 31, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Chris B
I like the 1st better and agree with MarkM & Justin wholeheartedly. I like the brighter sky, clouds, & mist with all the stars, maybe a normal Earth sized moon instead of Thetis, I believe?

I also like the fire in the forest in the right corner. It didn't make sense that there was a random signal fire down in the trees unless it was a camp I suppose, but now that it's gone, the corner is really dark. The few stars you can see are cool, possibly other planets out there.

All that said, are all these the same planet/moon, or have we seen 3 different ones now? ;)

Sun July 31, 2011 at 9:52 pm

"Usually I like planets in the sky, but..."
... This time, I think I like the funky galactic starlit sky that was in the other version a little better. There was something almost epic about the feel of it, especially when combined with the figures and the signal fires in the foreground.

Sun July 31, 2011 at 9:38 pm

"I like the planet"
To each his own I guess. :)

Sun July 31, 2011 at 9:36 pm

"Agree with MarkM"
While typically I love planet pics (Tropic of Thetis is still one of my all time favorites), it just feels out of place on this one. I don't feel like it does justice to the rest of the picture. Before, your eyes were drawn to the figures in the middle, and the fires (Are the signal fires? What could they be signaling?), but now all I get drawn to are the planets. They completely overwhelm the picture IMO.

It's still a beautiful picture, just doesn't tell the same story now, that's all.

Sun July 31, 2011 at 9:18 pm

"better without the planet"
i really like the bright starlit sky. Feels like what you might actually be able to see without light pollution... and possibly a thinner atmosphere

i think the planet should be a pickle jar version and one of the others the main one

Sun July 31, 2011 at 9:11 pm

I was torn about adding it. I really was...

Sun July 31, 2011 at 8:24 pm

"Damnit, Ryan!"
Enough with the planets already! :P

Sun July 31, 2011 at 7:36 pm

"Huzzah for planets!"
I must say I have a particular weakness for scenes with ringed planets in them -- fortunately for me, you keep delivering them!

I like the darkness on the land better in the new one, but I liked the luminescence/aurora/whatever in the clouds from the first one.

But thanks to the big planet overhead, I'm rocking the second one for now.

Sun July 31, 2011 at 5:21 pm

"It's kinda like an alternate universe."
I like both versions. :)

Sun July 31, 2011 at 5:11 pm

Jeff K
"Sorry but...."
I probably would have liked it better without the looming planet and rings.

Sun July 31, 2011 at 4:51 pm

I seem to prefer different elements of the scene from both versions.

V.1, I prefer the cloud brightness and the fog around the trees. I don't like the sky so much.

V.2, I prefer the sky. It seems much tidier than V.1, however I don't like the dimmed brightness of the clouds.

For now though, I think I'll stick to the first version. Awesome work as usual though Ryan!

Sun July 31, 2011 at 3:26 pm

"Heliocentric (Night) V.2"
I've added my second version of "Heliocentric (Night)" this afternoon. A lot of folks thought the first version was too bright for a night scene so I've toned it down a bit. I also gave in to temptation and added a huge planet in the sky (why not?). There are less clouds in this version so I got the render times down from 80 hrs to 15.

Which do you guys prefer?

Sun July 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm

Way to go Rayan....amazing....

Sat July 30, 2011 at 10:11 pm

It's great, as always! It brings to mind an idea, from some of my favorite books- what about a mountain range in dusk or darkness, with the signal fires summoning the king to battle visible down the range? Arthur of the Nine Battles, called to defend his land against the Saxons one last time...

I like the night version of this one best!

Thu July 28, 2011 at 9:20 pm

I don't want to talk your idea bad, but I think Ryan has thought a long time about what to buy for his new machine, and I trust in his decisions ;-)

The tenfold improvement is only for scientific applications that can use the GPU to calculate things the CPU would normally do. This is not the field Ryan works in. He needs real graphic calculations, so he has no need for a GPGPU (CUDA, OpenCL and so on).

At least that's the way I understand it.

Thu July 28, 2011 at 4:35 pm

This is so beautiful. It gives such a sense of calm and awe. I already set it as my wallpaper for this evening!

Thu July 28, 2011 at 9:38 am

Chris B
"Still like the tilt"
:) and I like the milky way in the sky, though the clouds in the middle blend in with the stars and the ones to the left seem a little dark/dense. Ditto on the fire and how the light makes the cloaks look plastic-y.

Regardless it's awesome as is and the other fires give a lot of life to the image. I'm glad you added them.

Wed July 27, 2011 at 9:53 pm

"80 Hours ?"
Hello Ryan,

Did you ever thought about buying a new rendering cow, so that the renders don't eat up too much time ? You said, it took 80 hours to render it on an already big machine. That's awful.

Solultion: Why don't you take a look on these Tesla machines :


When used as a rendering cow, they can shrink your rendering time up to tenfold, NO MATTER WHAT PC you own. It would give you the opportunity to experiment a lot more with your renders before you publish them ... ;)

It's certainly worth looking, is it not ? ;)



Wed July 27, 2011 at 6:45 pm

I have yet to be sucked into read "Wheel of Time".

Wed July 27, 2011 at 11:06 am

"Heliocentric (Night)"
Wonderful..Definitely 'Return of the King'!!/or from which novel of the Jordan's ..'Wheel of Time'....hmmmm???!!!

Wed July 27, 2011 at 10:58 am

I like this scence. It is a bit bright. Still amazing though.

*More Sword of Truth than Lord of the Rings

Wed July 27, 2011 at 10:24 am

Personally I think the clouds are a little to fluffy & they contrast the sharpness of the rest of the picture to much. But overall pretty nice.

Tue July 26, 2011 at 11:29 pm

"Another keeper"
Ryan, I am forced to agree, (up to a point); It does seem bright, at least on the left side, as if the moon is above the upperleft corner... I definitely agree that there should be some sparks above the left bonfire. Other than that, keep up the awesomely, spectacular, stupendously B-E-A-U-tiful work!

Tue July 26, 2011 at 10:48 pm

"A well lit night"
Ryan, i'm sure you've heard this many times at this point but the whole pic is simply too bright. maybe instead of trying to keep the same scene change it up....get rid of the clouds make a pond between the mountains etc

Tue July 26, 2011 at 10:22 pm

"night version"
As odd as it seems, yes, this one is almost too bright, especially when you can't see the moon. Maybe not *quite* as bright, but enough to have a little definition to the clouds.

Also, on my ipad, I didn't realize that the sky was lots of stars, not over-bright clouds at first. Maybe a toned-down sky? I would almost like to see a bright spattering of stars, instead of a milky-way type thing, like on a really clear, cold evening.

The foremost bonfire needs a bit more... wildness? to it. There aren't any sparks above such a big bonfire, at least, where usually there are.

Just a few suggestions. Great piece, regardless of tweaks, though. It's already on my desktop :)

Tue July 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

"Too Bright"
I agree. I think it's too bright as well. I've always enjoyed your night versions and never found them too dark. Maybe you can give us a darker version for the pickle jar?

Tue July 26, 2011 at 6:19 pm

"Heliocentric (Night) 2011, Alternate Version"
Outstanding!!! I really like this image. I anxiously await the widescreen versions of this piece. I think the level orientation of the image is a good move. It really seems to help with how the eye flows from one part to the other. As I suggested in a previous post, I would love to see a four seasons version of this image.

Thanks again.


Tue July 26, 2011 at 4:06 pm

"Heliocentric Night"
I must admit i'm not mad for the overall brightness of this image... The low cover clouds are already brightening up the image, and having the milky way adding to this... its too bright for my eye! I love the campfires, (a hand full more scattered would be nice!) but can agree on the flames, and the characters do come off looking a little cartoonish. The clouds top left certainly seems quite odd! They look like floating boulders! I like this image, just think it can be better!

Tue July 26, 2011 at 12:53 am

Jonathan L
"OMG. This is amazing!"

Tue July 26, 2011 at 12:39 am

"Looks lovely..."
... but I agree with some of the other comments here that the very top layer of clouds visible in the top left look very solid and blobby.

Love the starfield sky and the way that the light from the fire on the right spills into the clouds nearby, filtering through the trees.

Tue July 26, 2011 at 11:51 am

The only nit I have to pick is that the closest fire really doesn't look like fire, it looks like a statue.

Tue July 26, 2011 at 11:20 am

I love the new image. I can imagine there is a very large moon on the other side of the mountains.

The only thing that jumped out at me as missing is smoke. It just caught me as odd that we have large fires but no smoke. Unless of course they are fires made from magic so there isn't any smoke. Always a possibility considering the characters in play.

Tue July 26, 2011 at 8:28 am

"cocaine is a hell of a drug"
Ryan. this is by far my most favorite piece of art you have created, even more so than tropic of thetis 2008. this is just magnificent

Tue July 26, 2011 at 7:52 am

"Not (currently) as good as the day version"
Neither the sky/stars nor the upper clouds work for me in this image. Also, the shadows from the trees in the lower right look too sharp for diffuse night time lighting. On the plus side, the fire among those trees looks awesome.

Tue July 26, 2011 at 1:39 am

I prefer this one to the tilted version, the tilted one makes me think I'm in a movie or a helicopter, neither of which I see this scene as being from.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 8:13 pm

I prefer this one to the tilted version, the tilted one makes me think I'm in a movie or a helicopter, neither of which I see this scene as being from.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 8:12 pm

The Guru
"regarding clouds"
I personally think that this one needs some work. The denser clouds in the sky look far too solid for my liking. I also fing the brightness of the sky distracting. Other than that, it looks fantastic.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 7:19 pm

David M
"Thanks Ryan!"
Ryan, It was me that made the LOTR comment! Thanks for doing it! I like it.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 6:54 pm

"not as stunning"
I dislike the day version for the camera tilt, and LOVE the night version simply FOR the tilt. It's... odd.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm

"Even better than the day version!"
I really like this scene. It seems more realistic despite the galaxy backdrop. The textures seem more believable.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 6:46 pm

"Heliocentric Night"
Very nice except for the sky which doesn't look as great as the rest of the image. I would really like an updated version with a nicer sky. I do like the fires, though.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 6:15 pm

...I like this much better than the day version.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 6:12 pm

"Love it."
I love this one. @Ryan don't listen to the folks who want every single thing to look like a photograph. That level of realism has its place, but the storybook feel of this image is awesome.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 5:25 pm

"Not up to usual standards"
The fire looks like it's molded crystal or some other static object. The upper cloud layer is weird. The foreground upper clouds look like floating blobs of liquid. The mid-ground upper clouds have edges - particularly on the upper sides - that make them look furry or like some sort of plant brush. Neither look like real clouds.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm

"Heliocentric (Night) (2011) (Alternate Versions)"
Love it!!!!

Mon July 25, 2011 at 5:00 pm

Beacon of Gondor, sir Bliss?

Mon July 25, 2011 at 4:41 pm

I have to agree about the less-than-photorealistic fire, but I do like what it does to the figures' cloaks. Puts me in mind of the Fire Emblem characters with their elaborate capes and armor.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 4:31 pm

I like this more than the daytime version. Some of the clouds look a bit "flat" though.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 4:22 pm

Try it now Josh.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 4:13 pm

"Pickle Jar 1920 x 1200"
Pickle Jar 1920 x 1200 is not found?

Mon July 25, 2011 at 4:08 pm

"Pickle Jar 1920 x 1200"
Pickle Jar 1920 x 1200 is not found?

Mon July 25, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Love it! Period.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 3:47 pm

KD Sarge
"Love it!"
But just so you know--never resist the huge planets in the sky on MY account. I love 'em. :D

Mon July 25, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Fair point re: the fire. I'd hoped it would look better at high resolution.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 2:35 pm

"Love it, except for..."
... the camp fire on the rock. The flames look a bit cartoon-y.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm

"A bit cluttered"
I think its the brightness of the sky that just makes it seem like there's too much light doing too many things to the surrounding.

Mon July 25, 2011 at 2:06 pm

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